Britain’s ambassador to the United States resigned Wednesday, just days after diplomatic cables criticizing President Donald Trump caused embarrassment to two countries that often celebrate having a “special relationship.” The resignation of Kim Darroch came after Trump lashed out at him on Twitter, describing the ambassador as “wacky” and a “pompous fool.” The criticism came after leaked documents revealed the envoy’s dim view of Trump’s administration, which he described as dysfunctional, inept and chaotic. “Since the leak of official documents … there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding my position and the duration of my remaining term as ambassador,” Darroch said in his resignation letter. “I want to put an end to that speculation. The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like.” Prime Minister Theresa May said the resignation was “a matter of regret,” underlining that “good government depends on public servants being able to give full and frank advice.” Darroch had been set to retire at the end of the year. It’s unclear whether May will have time to replace Darroch before she leaves office later this month. Appointing ambassadors usually involves a formal civil service process with advertisements, applications and interviews, though Simon McDonald, head of Britain’s diplomatic service, said the post of ambassador to the U.S. wasn’t always chosen that way. “History shows that there are often bespoke procedures for filling the embassy in Washington, DC,” he said. Though the matter had been brewing for
Italy’s government plans to throw more resources into its fight against boat migrants, an official said on Tuesday, as the number of new arrivals gathers speed, putting pressure on Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. Some 47 migrants were brought to shore before dawn by an Italian police patrol vessel, while a charity ship rebuffed by Italy picked up 44 people in the central Mediterranean and said they would be transferred to Malta later in the day. After a sharp fall in migrant arrivals in recent months, numbers have picked up since June, with people-smugglers increasingly towing packed boats deep into international waters to escape especially the Italian-funded Libyan coastguard. Previously, the underpowered, rubber dinghies were pushed to sea from local beaches, making it relatively easy for the Libyans to stop them before they left their territorial waters. To clamp down on this, Italy is planning to boost its own sea and air patrols to try to spot traffickers before they leave local waters, and will give 10 motorboats to the Libyan coastguard. Salvini, who has built much of his political credibility on a drive to halt migrant flows, also wrote to his Tunisian counterpart urging him to do more to stop departures from Tunisia and to accept back swiftly those caught fleeing. Over the past 18 months, the largest number of migrants entering Italy have come from Tunisia, a change from previous years when the new arrivals came mainly from sub-Saharan Africa. TUNISIANS TOP MIGRANT LIST Since the start of 2019,
With a string of sausages round his neck and holding packs of “Boris bangers”, Boris Johnson extolled the virtues of new business in northern England as part of his pitch to become Britain’s next prime minister. A day later, the man whose stint as foreign minister was marked by gaffes which have prompted some of his critics to question his suitability for high office couldn’t quite remember where the factory making the sausages was. At a hustings on Friday in the northeastern town of Darlington, most of the Conservative members amassed to hear him and his rival, current foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, were sympathetic to the slip, laughing when he said he had been at the factory “somewhere in Yorkshire” the day before. For others, it was yet another sign that the would-be prime minister, who has promised to take Britain out of the European Union “do or die” by Oct. 31, has little grasp of the detail needed to run a country going through turbulent times. “He can’t even remember where he was. I can remember where I was at that time yesterday and I don’t want to be prime minister,” said William Oxley, 65, from the market town of Malton in the northern English region of Yorkshire, who is “prone” to backing Hunt. “Don’t get me wrong, Boris is fabulous and there’s a huge place for Boris in British politics, but I don’t think it’s as prime minister because I think he is prone to get things wrong,
Greece’s opposition conservatives returned to power with a landslide victory in snap elections on Sunday, and Prime Minister elect Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he had a clear mandate for change, pledging more investments and fewer taxes. The win appeared driven by fatigue with years of European Union-enforced belt-tightening, combined with high unemployment, after the country almost crashed out of the euro zone at the height of its financial travails in 2015. Conservative New Democracy had a commanding lead of 39.6 percent of the vote based on 73 percent of the votes counted versus 31.6 percent for incumbent leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ Syriza, the official interior ministry tally showed. Exit polls showed New Democracy winning between 155 and 167 seats in the 300 member parliament, taking advantage of an electoral system which gives bonus seats to the frontrunner. Mitsotakis said in a televised address that the election outcome gave him a strong and clear mandate to change Greece. “I am committed to fewer taxes, many investments, for good and new jobs, and growth which will bring better salaries and higher pensions in an efficient state,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. Tsipras said he respected the will of the Greek people. “Today, with our head held high we accept the people’s verdict. To bring Greece to where it is today we had to take difficult decisions (with) a heavy political cost,” he told journalists. Tsipras took over from the conservatives in 2015 as Greece was at the peak of a financial crisis which had
When it comes to saving Iran’s nuclear deal, Europe finds itself in the impossible situation of trying to salvage an accord unraveling because of the maximalist U.S. sanctions campaign. Since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord over a year ago, a slow fuse has burned through Iran. At first, it appeared Iranian officials thought they might be able to wait out Trump. They spoke about “strategic patience” as the U.S. 2020 presidential election loomed. That talk faded as U.S. sanctions choked off Iran’s vital crude oil sales abroad and then began targeting its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and officials including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Soon, the talk changed to “strategic action” and making threats to the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial global oil supply point. That action has seen Iran break the limit put on its stockpile of low-enriched uranium under its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. President Hassan Rouhani says that starting Sunday, Iran will begin enriching uranium to “any level we think is necessary and we need.” Those steps combined could see Iran narrow the one-year window it needs in order to have enough material ready to potentially build a nuclear weapon, something Iran denies it wants to do but the atomic accord prevented. To Iran, the only people who now can prevent further escalation in the crisis are in Europe. Among the parties to the deal are Britain, France and Germany, while the European Union also has aided in the diplomacy. In public
Christine Lagarde will raise the profile of the European Central Bank, making it a more politically-savvy institution that takes its message directly to the people. However policy innovation, the trademark of her predecessor, may be relegated. In return, Lagarde may be able to use her considerable diplomatic skills to persuade Germany to help temper a euro zone slow-down by raising its spending levels – a feat outgoing ECB chief Mario Draghi failed to achieve. Facing a protracted crisis, Draghi and his team of highly-trained monetary policy-makers have essentially devised the world’s biggest experiment in unconventional policy over the last five years. Weak growth suggests the stimulus path must be pursued, even as the limits of its existing tools are nearing. With little training or experience in monetary policy, Lagarde, who takes over from Mario Draghi on Nov 1, will be the arbiter and not the driver of the policy innovation that is now needed, putting a greater burden on Philip Lane, the ECB’s new chief economist, and the bank’s staff. “The question is whether the monetary policy brain drain with the departures of (former chief economist) Peter Praet, (former vice president) Vitor Constancio and Mario Draghi will be equally replaced or whether Philip Lane might soon be the last pragmatic monetary economist standing in the ECB’s Executive Board,” ING economist Carsten Brzeski said. Draghi, himself a PhD economist who wrote a dissertation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MTI) on economic theory and its application, has in contrast been the
China on Wednesday said it lodged an official protest with London after British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned Beijing of “serious consequences” if it breaches the Hong Kong handover agreement. “He seems to be fantasizing in the faded glory of British colonialism and in the bad habit of gesticulating while looking down on other countries’ affairs,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular briefing. It is the second day in a row that China has slammed Hunt for remarks he has made regarding the unprecedented anti-Beijing protests that have rocked the former British colony. Under the terms of the 1997 handover deal from British to Chinese rule, Hong Kong enjoys rights and liberties unseen on the mainland. But protesters accuse Beijing of reneging on that deal with the help of unelected leaders. “Hong Kong is part of China and we have to accept that. But the freedoms in Hong Kong are enshrined in a joint declaration” signed with former colonial ruler Britain, Hunt said Tuesday. “We expect that legally binding agreement to be honored and if it isn’t there will be serious consequences.” Hunt’s comments came after police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters in the former British colony. Officers moved in after crowds stormed and trashed Hong Kong’s legislature on Monday, the anniversary of its return to Chinese rule, protesting against proposed legislation allowing extraditions to mainland China. “There is a way through this which is for the government of Hong Kong to listen
European Union officials said Monday that leaders pulled an all-nighter at a summit but failed to agree on the list of candidates for the bloc’s key posts, with the marathon talks entering a second day. The leaders trickled in for bilateral contacts through Sunday before officially convening at around 8 p.m. They have been locked in talks ever since amid deep divisions over how to best balance political, geographic and gender considerations among the 28 member nations. With the selection process bogged down for the second EU summit meeting in a row, the leaders were still considering Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans to replace Christian Democrat Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the EU’s powerful executive arm, the European Commission. “Let’s see,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, said of Timmermans’ chances when briefly descending from the meeting room in EU headquarters around breakfast time. The Timmermans option deeply divided the European People’s Party-Christian Democrat group as it would surrender the key post to the rival Socialists & Democrats bloc despite EPP remaining the biggest group in the EU following last month’s election. Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, an EPP stalwart, posted a video on his verified Facebook account of a discussion with Timmermans in which Borissov said the Dutchman should get the Commission job while the less coveted parliament presidency should go to EPP candidate Manfred Weber. But Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar insisted that the “vast majority of the EPP prime ministers don’t believe we should give up the presidency of
The German captain of a humanitarian rescue ship with 40 migrants aboard has been arrested after she rammed her vessel into an Italian border police motorboat while docking at a tiny Mediterranean island Saturday in defiance of Italy’s anti-migrant interior minister. Jeering onlookers shouted “handcuffs, handcuffs” as Carola Rackete, the 31-year-old captain, was escorted off the boat at Lampedusa, which is closer to north Africa than to the Italian mainland. The migrants, meanwhile, hugged personnel of the German Sea-Watch charity who helped them during their 17 days at sea. Some kissed the ground after disembarking from Sea-Watch 3 at dawn’s break. The migrants had been rescued from an unseaworthy vessel launched by Libya-based human traffickers but Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini had refused to let them disembark on Lampedusa until other European Union countries agreed to take them. Five nations pledged to do so on Friday: Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg and Portugal. The humanitarian rescue operation ended dramatically and violently when Rackete decided she could no longer wait for permission to dock given the odyssey of the migrants aboard. “It’s enough. After 16 days following the rescue, #SeaWatch3 enters in port,” the organization tweeted early Saturday shortly before the ship started heading dockside. The captain steered her vessel toward the island before dawn, ramming the much smaller police boat, which was blocking Sea-Watch 3?s path to the dock. In past years, Lampedusa had won international praise for its generous welcome to many of the hundreds of thousands of rescued migrants.
Albania’s local elections on Sunday are taking on more importance than usual as a test of democracy in the ex-communist state that hopes to start membership negotiations with the European Union. The opposition, supported by the country’s president, is boycotting the vote over its claims of government corruption and demands for a new parliamentary election, but the Albanian government is pressing ahead. Holding a free and fair election has been post-communist Albania’s Achilles’ heel, but it is considered key for the launch of EU membership talks for the nation of 2.9 million, which already belongs to NATO. Here is a look at what to expect: THE VOTE About 3.5 million Albanians are eligible to elect mayors and town hall councils, or parliaments to run 61 districts for the next four years. The number of eligible voters is notably higher than the entire population of Albania, due to the number of people from the Albanian diaspora in other countries. There is no provision for voting abroad, however. Voting starts at 0500 GMT (1 a.m. EDT) and ends 1700 GMT (1 p.m. EDT) on Sunday. Preliminary election results are not expected until Monday. POLITICAL CONFLICT President Ilir Meta has tried to cancel Sunday’s vote because of the opposition boycott, and on Thursday he announced that the election would now take place on Oct. 13 — a few days before the EU decision on membership negotiations is expected. Prime Minister Edi Rama, however, insists the elections will take place as scheduled on Sunday,
NATO urged Russia on Tuesday to destroy a new missile before an August deadline and save a treaty that keeps land-based nuclear warheads out of Europe or face a more determined alliance response in the region. NATO defence ministers will discuss on Wednesday their next steps if Moscow keeps the missile system that the United States says would allow short-notice nuclear attacks on Europe and break the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF). “We call on Russia to take the responsible path, but we have seen no indication that Russia intends to do so,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference. “We will need to respond,” Stoltenberg said. He declined to go into more details. But diplomats said defence ministers will consider more flights over Europe by U.S. warplanes capable of carrying nuclear warheads, more military training and the repositioning U.S. sea-based missiles. The United States and its NATO allies want Russia to destroy its 9M729/SSC-8 nuclear-capable cruise missile system, which Moscow has so far refused to do. It denies any violations of the INF treaty, accusing Washington of seeking an arms race. Without a deal, the United States has said it will withdraw from the INF treaty on Aug. 2, removing constraints on its own ability to develop nuclear-capable, medium-range missiles. The dispute has deepened a fissure in East-West ties that severely deteriorated after Russia’s seizure of Crimea and its involvement in Syria. “ALL OPTIONS ON TABLE” Russia warned on Monday of a stand-off comparable to the 1962 Cuban
The number of people seeking political asylum in the European Union is rising again, driven up by Latin American refugees, but flows are expected to remain well below the high levels seen during Europe’s 2015 migration crisis, a report said on Monday. In the first five months of this year, states of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), which includes all the 28 EU countries, plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, registered more than 290,000 asylum applications, an increase by 11% compared to the same period in 2018, the EU agency for refugees, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), said. The rise was partly caused by a surge of Venezuelans and other Latin American asylum seekers who are fleeing political and economic crises in their countries, EASO said. Venezuelans lodged some 18,400 asylum applications from January through May, roughly twice as many as during the same period in 2018, making them the nationality with the second highest number of applications in Europe after Syrians. Venezuela is experiencing an economic collapse, triggered by a prolonged political crisis, which has unleashed the biggest migratory crisis in recent South American history with some 3 million Venezuelans estimated to have fled the country in recent years. Most of them go to Venuezuela’s neighbouring countries. European countries recorded also a surge in the arrivals of Colombians, and more asylum applications from nationals of El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Peru, EASO said. This has caused a nearly 50% increase of applications in Spain last year when
NATO aims to recognize space as a domain of warfare this year, four senior diplomats said, partly to show U.S. President Donald Trump that the alliance is relevant and adapting to new threats after he signed off on the creation of a U.S. Space Force. The decision, set to be taken at a Dec. 3-4 leaders summit in London that Trump is due to attend, would formally acknowledge that battles can be waged not only on land, in the air, at sea and on computer networks, but also in space. “There’s agreement that we should make space a domain and the London summit is the best place to make it official,” said one senior NATO diplomat involved in the discussions, although cautioning that technical policy work was still under way. NATO diplomats deny the alliance would be on a war footing in space, but say declaring it a domain would begin a debate over whether NATO should eventually use space weapons that can shut down enemy missiles and air defenses or destroy satellites. The decision to declare space a new frontier for defense may help convince Trump that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization can be a useful ally in deterring China’s rise as a rival military power, the diplomats said. While NATO countries today own 65 percent of satellites in space, China envisions massive constellations of commercial satellites that can offer services ranging from high-speed internet for aircraft to tracking missiles and armed forces on the ground. China is developing
With all the top jobs at the European Union coming open, EU leaders gathered Thursday for a major bout of political horse-trading, trying to pick candidates who will have a major impact on the bloc over the next five to eight years while keeping its 28 nations happy. That’s not an easy task. The EU is responsible for coordinating common policies on sectors ranging from the single market to agriculture, from competition issues to immigration. The main posts up for grabs Thursday are the head of the EU’s powerful executive arm, the European Commission — now held by Jean-Claude Juncker — and the president of the European Council, the body that represents the member states in Brussels. That position is currently held by Donald Tusk. Other key jobs to be filled include the president of the European Parliament, chairman of the European Central Bank and the EU foreign policy chief. The EU’s parliament must endorse some of the posts. French President Emmanuel Macron hit Brussels early for a series of meetings, hours before the summit started, meeting with several European leaders and holding talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. That set off a chain reaction of informal huddles involving Merkel — leader of the EU’s biggest power — to weigh up potential candidates based on their political affiliation, nationality and gender, and perhaps their diplomatic acumen. Merkel said this two-day summit might not necessarily succeed in filling all top jobs at stake, an issue that has divided the 28 members.
Boris Johnson increased his lead Tuesday in the race to become Britain’s next prime minister as one of his rivals was eliminated in a party vote, while upstart candidate Rory Stewart defied expectations to stay in the contest. Boris Johnson, a flamboyant former foreign secretary, won 126 of the 313 votes cast Tuesday in a second-round ballot of Conservative Party lawmakers that left five contenders standing. The total all but guarantees that Johnson will be one of the candidates in a runoff that will be decided by party members. Dominic Raab, who tried to vie with Johnson for the votes of committed Brexit supporters, got only 30 votes Tuesday, three short of the threshold needed to go through to the next round. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Stewart all remain contenders in what is now effectively a race for second place and a runoff spot. All five candidates were taking part in a live television debate on Tuesday evening, two days after Johnson skipped another televised debate despite being the front-runner. Tory lawmakers will vote again Wednesday and Thursday, eliminating at least one candidate each time. The final two contenders will go to a postal ballot of all 160,000 Conservative Party members nationwide. The winner, due to be announced in late July, will replace Theresa May as both party leader and British prime minister. Theresa May stepped down as party leader earlier this month after failing to secure Parliament’s approval for her
Turkey will not back down from its decision to buy Russian S-400 missile defence systems despite U.S. warnings that it will lead to Ankara’s exclusion from the F-35 fighter jet programme, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday. In what has become the main source of tension between Ankara and Washington, the NATO allies have sparred publicly for months over Turkey’s purchase of the S-400s, which Washington has said could trigger U.S. sanctions. U.S. Acting Secretary of Defence Patrick Shanahan last week sent his Turkish counterpart a letter warning that Ankara would be pulled out of the F-35 jet programme unless it changes course from its plans to install the defences. In what was Turkey’s first direct response to the letter, Cavusoglu said no one can give Turkey ultimatums. “Turkey will not back down from its decisions with these kinds of letters,” he said. “Turkey bought S-400, it is going to be delivered and stationed in Turkey.” The S-400s are not compatible with NATO’s defence systems and Washington says they would compromise its F-35s, which Turkey also plans to buy. Turkey has proposed that the allies form a working group to asses the impact of the S-400s, but has yet to receive a response from the United States. Cavusoglu on Thursday repeated Turkey’s call for the joint working group, saying experts from both countries should come together to evaluate U.S. concerns. A day earlier, President Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey had completed the deal with Russia and that the systems